CHARLESTON — A bill introduced earlier this week would legalize the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana and would provide a system of regulation for growing and selling it.
Saying his goal is to reduce opioid overdoses and help address the state’s budget shortfall, Delegate Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, introduced House Bill 3035 on Wednesday.
The bill is double referenced to the House Committee on Health and Human Resources and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Hornbuckle said legalizing marijuana could help with opioid overdoses as well as help fix the structural hole in the state’s budget.
“I think on the economic side of legalizing marijuana, it would do good going forward with not just being a one-time fix,” Hornbuckle said. “Also delving into reducing the Department of Corrections Jail bill will help the state financially as well.”
The bill legalizes manufacturing, selling and possessing marijuana for people 21 years old or older and says it would be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.
Last week, members of the House debated medical marijuana on the floor after Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, proposed an amendment that would reclassify medical marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule IV. It was defeated in a 35-64 vote.
Currently, marijuana is classified as Schedule I, meaning it has no medicinal use. Moving it to Schedule IV would allow it to be medically prescribed.
This was the first time medical marijuana was debated on the House floor.
After the amendment’s defeat, some lawmakers said the issue could be dead for the session.
“I’m a person who says, ‘never say never.’ I’m a coach and I always say that to my players,” Hornbuckle said. “There are some dynamics here that may slow that process down but I know I’m not going to stop fighting for it because it’s the right thing to do for our constituents. It’s what’s right for our veterans, our cancer patients and it’s what’s right for the budget and our economy.”
Andrea Lannom is a reporter with The (Beckley) Register-Herald, a sister newspaper of the Times West Virginian.